Modernism from Madness to Mental Health

A woodcut showing three people in profile while seated at a table. Each person has a very similar appearance. Each holds a fork and knife against a plate of food in front of them. The palette is black and white.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Nervous People at Dinner (Kohnstamm Sanatorium) (Nervöse beim Diner [Sanatorium Kohnstamm]), 1916. Woodcut. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Molly and Walter Bareiss, B.S. 1940S

Held in conjunction with the exhibition Munch and Kirchner: Anxiety and Expression, this symposium brings together perspectives from comparative literature and the histories of art, science, and medicine to explore the complex intersections between artistic practice, the psychological sciences, and mental health and well-being. The speakers will elaborate on the themes of the exhibition to account for new chronologies, histories, and communities, addressing topics from the ideologies of collecting artwork created by patients to the use of therapeutic techniques in recent performance and video art. The symposium undertakes a much-needed revision of notions of “madness,” imagination, and care in artistic practice. Organized by Freyda Spira, the Robert L. Solley Curator of Prints and Drawings, and Joseph Henry, the Florence B. Selden Fellow, Department of Prints and Drawings.

Made possible by Nelson Blitz, Jr., and Catherine Woodard; the John Walsh Lecture and Education Fund; and the Robert Lehman, B.A. 1913, Endowment Fund.

Schedule of Speakers

11:30 am 
Panel 1, “Clinical Trials”

  • Allison Morehead, Associate Professor of Art History, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario: “Edvard Munch and the Psychiatrization of Modern Life”
  • Joseph Henry, the Florence B. Selden Fellow, Department of Prints and Drawings, Yale University Art Gallery: “Apocalyptic Burnout: Expressionism as Affective Labor”  
  • Adela Kim, M.B.A. candidate, Yale School of Management, and Ph.D. candidate, History of Art, Yale University: “Tearing in the Work of Andrea Fraser, 1984–Present”

2:00 pm
Panel 2, “Group Psychologies”

  • Laura R. Phillips, Curator for the Visual Arts, Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, Yale University: “Adolph Menzel: Cultural Anxiety and Aesthetic Education” 
  • Raphael Koenig, Assistant Professor of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, University of Connecticut, Storrs: “Willenskurven: Hans Prinzhorn’s Artistry of the Mentally Ill and the Politics of Free Will in Weimar Germany”
  • Nana Adusei-Poku, Assistant Professor of History of Art and African American Studies, Yale University: “Black Melancholia”

3:30 pm

Coffee break in Loria 351

4:00 pm

Suzanne Hudson, Professor of Art History and Fine Arts, University of Southern California, Los Angeles: “‘The Arts in Therapy’ at the Museum of Modern Art, or Therapeutic Modernisms in the Making”